Rollf v. CarterAnnotate this Case
In 2008, Russell Rollf assaulted his estranged wife with a butcher knife and with the intent to kill her. He later was tried by a jury, convicted of attempted murder, and sentenced for that crime to imprisonment for a term of years. Rollf appealed, and he argued that the law was ambiguous about whether his offense was punishable as attempted murder or only as aggravated assault. Because the law imposed different punishments for his offense, Rollf claimed, the rule of lenity should have been applied, and he should have been convicted of aggravated assault, not attempted murder. The Court of Appeals rejected that argument. Following the Georgia Supreme Court's decision in "McNair v. Georgia," (745 SE2d 282 (2013)), Rollf filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, asserting that the rule of lenity ought to have been applied in his case and that he should have been convicted of only aggravated assault with intent to murder, not attempted murder. Because Rollf sought in his habeas petition to raise the same claim that the Court of Appeals had rejected in his direct appeal, Rollf was confronted with a procedural bar, and so, in an effort to overcome it, Rollf pointed to "McNair" and argued that it marked a change in the applicable law. The habeas court disagreed and denied the petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Rollf appealed. The issue confronting the Supreme Court was whether "McNair" marked a change in Georgia law. The Court held McNair was not a change in the law, and it did not help Rollf overcome the procedural bar in his habeas case. As such, the habeas court properly denied his writ petition.